The past Antarctic season was the first for the only electric polar vehicle to date, Venturi Antarctica, and it successfully mastered it on the Belgian emission-free research station Princess Elisabeth Antarctica. The station’s teams used it to travel over 500 kilometers between December 2021 and February 2022 to get around and transport equipment and materials. But they also discovered a few weak points: The vehicle gets too warm in the Antarctic summer and snow accumulates in the drive. Therefore, a team from Venturi traveled to the station at the beginning of the current season and gave the high-tech vehicle an upgrade.
Emission-free research is only possible in Antarctica at the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica station in Belgium. Of course, an electric vehicle powered by wind and sun is a must. Antarctica, developed and built by the Monegasque company Venturi, allows the research teams to do their work while minimizing the impact on the ecosystem.
As with almost all new developments, there are a few flaws with the Antarctica that need to be ironed out. Therefore, Venturi’s research and development department has been working on solutions over the past year and the team was able to make the upgrades to the vehicle in late 2022, Venturi announced in a press release.
“In 2009, H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco asked me to think about designing an electric polar exploration vehicle. Version after version, we made progress until this Antarctica III entered service. I am delighted that our virtuous Monegasque machine is meeting the needs of the International Polar Foundation and the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica research station. We will be going back to the site in less than a year’s time, to continue the optimisation process.”Gildo Pastor, President of Venturi
One of the problems involved the gears in the drive, where significant amounts of snow collected, compacted and then hardened. This caused vibrations while driving. The team replaced the gears with new ones, also developed in Monaco.
The second weak point was the ventilation of the passenger compartment. Originally designed for use in the Antarctic winter with temperatures around -50°C, the researchers found it too warm in the interior at summer temperatures of -10°C and sunshine. To improve ventilation, two additional air intakes were installed at the front of the vehicle, along with a ventilation system to lower the interior temperature when the sun and power electronics generate too much heat.
The same power electronics installed under the interior were the subject of the third improvement. Since it also generates a lot of heat, better cooling was needed, which is now provided by additional air intakes and outlets at the front and rear of the vehicle.
“The Venturi Antarctica is the perfect fit for the zero emission concept of the Princess Elisabeth station. It’s an important advantage for the scientists and the team working at the station. This vehicle can be used for field missions while being recharged by the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica station’s renewable energy sources (wind and solar).”Alain Hubert, head of the Belgian Antarctic Research Expeditions (BELARE) and founder of the International Polar Foundation (IPF), the official operator of the station.
Currently, the Antarctica is only used by the research teams for journeys of a maximum of 40 kilometers because the consistency of the snow affects the range. Future upgrades will also address this problem.
Julia Hager, PolarJournal
More on the subject: